During the selection process for firefighters, candidates will be asked to attend a medical examination for evaluation. A Fire and Rescue Service Doctor will ask for the GP medical records and conduct their own exam to determine if a candidate is physically fit to perform fire and rescue procedures required.
Seven tests are required to be passed during the medical examination. The examination is looking to ensure candidates can uphold health and safety regulations to avoid harming the team, those they rescue, and themselves. There are some fairly strict rules for passing the tests:
- Hearing Test: a candidate will need to be able to hear at a fairly competent level without aid. Fires and accident scenes can be loud, thus candidates need to be able to hear clearly what is being said and asked of them. The test is standard with a sound proof booth, headphones, and responding when sound is heard at varying ranges.
- Step Test: this is a heart monitoring test in which a person will have to step up and down while the heart rate is assessed for resting to working rates. Usually the stepping is on a box. The heart rate required can vary with different Fire and Rescue Services in the UK.
- Lung Function: an examination is conducted by blowing into a hollow, long tube in which the lung capacity is taken as candidates exhale completely. It is assessed on a numbers scale allowing for variations of full capacity.
- Physical Stamina: a candidate will need to squat on a machine that tests back and thigh strength, as well as pull strength.
- General tests: the doctor will test reflexes, muscles, and other physical aspects of the body.
- Chest X-ray: an x-ray is required of the chest to ensure the upper body skeletal structure is healthy.
- Eye exam: vision specifications exist in which aided eye sight must be 6/9 for both eyes and no worse than 6/36 for unaided.
It is possible for certain levels of physical condition to vary between Fire and Rescue Service departments. It is best to contact the fire service in a candidates’ local area for specific medical examination questions about the tests.
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
The NFPA has set the standards for UK wide medical examinations. It is under the NFPA that the physicians are chosen as well as the candidates who get past the initial application phase. During the medical examination certain medical conditions can disqualify a person. Discrimination is certainly an important factor to choosing the medical examination and for this reason if there are temporary medical conditions a person suffers from, the medical exam and training can be postponed until the person is fit enough to pass the exam. For other conditions that may be pre-existing or create safety risks disqualification is possible. The following are some medical examination details with regard to medical and physical fitness:
- Weight: must be normal for the person’s height in which the BMI is healthy.
- Vision: 20/20 or 20/40 will be passed.
- Hearing: no less than 25 decibel loss for 500, 1000, 2000, and 3000 hertz.
- Blood pressure: must remain in the 90-140 systolic and 60-90 diastolic range.
- Heart: is assessed for rhythm, size, and rate in which all must be normal.
Beyond hearing tests, conditions such as vertigo or impaired balance can be grounds for rejection. Any conditions like hypertension, thoracic aneurysm, clotting disorders, sickle cell, blood replacement therapy, coronary artery disease; bypass surgery, angioplasty or pacemaker will be rejected. If hypertension is temporary due to stress, a candidate can try again after taking the prescribed medication and then discontinuing the need for it. Any lung, skin, gastrointestinal, or urinary issues such as cancer, renal failure, or uncorrected hernia are also grounds for rejection. Medical examinations for fire fighters are not limited to the time of hire. There are frequent tests even after training to reassess a fire fighter’s ability. Medical examinations can be required by a supervising authority if the supervisor feels there is an issue. If an injury occurred on the job a medical exam is also mandatory to ensure the person can come back to work. Lastly, psychological exams are required in addition to medical exams.